In the people’s company town of Washington, D.C., the most popular refrain during lame duck sessions of Congress—the fewer than 60 days between congressional elections and adjournment—is the catchphrase from Mariah Carey’s iconic tune, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
Author: Frank N. Wilner
Watching Washington, December 2018 Railway Age: New leadership arrives at railroad-focused congressional committees in January, and unless Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Ann Begeman ingests breakfast Wheaties and gains courage to produce decisions, Congress may prescribe more than a potent laxative.
From the November 2018 issue of Railway Age: Were Amtrak a business school case study, it would be advertised as “The Failure of Public Enterprise”—users receiving services for which they don’t pay the full cost; taxpayers subsidizing the difference; a failure to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), as if Bernie Madoff were Amtrak’s chief accountant, and conflict of interest collaboration with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to impede entry by more efficient private-sector competitors.
Watching Washington, November 2018: When a 1978 labor dispute hobbled Northwest Airlines, North Dakota Gov. Arthur A. Link ventured to Minneapolis with a request of Chief Executive Donald Nyrop. Would Northwest—the lone east-west airline serving the state in the pre-deregulation era—withdraw an objection to competitor North Central temporarily providing the service?
Watching Washington, October 2018: From operating plans to marketing to pricing, change is relentless in railroading. Where railroaders once every five years looked with suspicion at all aspects of their system, and made substantial changes after 10, scientific advances, new processes and innovative applications propelled by unremitting competition have put the transformation process on steroids.
News item: Ian Jefferies, 42, currently Senior vice President for Government Affairs at the Association of American Railroads (AAR), will succeed Ed Hamberger as President and CEO on Jan. 1, 2019. Most notably, Jefferies will serve as the railroad industry’s chief congressional lobbyist and spokesperson.
Watching Washington, September 2018: If two congressional directives are not aptly labeled “Cheech and Chong Provisions,” why is their sum “420” and their consequence a seeming hallucinatory decade-long cavort through the federal court system whose clashing opinions have pinged and ponged as if a Super Mario arcade game?
Watching Washington, August 2018: Human life is measured in scores of years, stars in billions of miles, the national debt in trillions of dollars—all remarkably miniscule numbers compared to the petabytes of data (numbers containing 15 zeroes) generated by artificial intelligence in our increasingly knowledge-based society.
Amtrak is on notice by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) that should it discriminate against other railroads sharing access to Amtrak’s wholly owned Chicago Union Station (CUS), it could face regulatory discipline.
If ever there were a human equivalent to liver and onions—hated or loved, but no in-between—it was the late Ewing Hunter Harrison III, a chief executive of four major North American railroads, personally synonymous with the term “Precision Scheduled Railroading,” and whose mention invokes often disquieting debate on theories of management and how best to deliver shareholder value in the short- and long-term.